My friend recently had a bizarre encounter while utilizing the car service, uber. This made me think about the common courtesies that exist here in Saudi, that may not exist elsewhere. Courtesy and etiquettes in Saudi are general based on their socio-cultural norms, many of which are based on Islam, the religion of the country. Saudi courtesy is many things that we may not think about in the west; below you find a few things that I think are important to be mindful of when traveling to or living with in Saudi Arabia.
1. Shaking Hands
While shaking the hand of someone of the opposite gender in the west is view as respectful, in Saudi Arabia - it is a major faux pas. As a part of an Islamic society, men and women who are not related should not have physical contact and therefore - even in the event that you want to thank someone for their service, a simple "Thank you/Shurkran" is sufficient.
2. Proper Greeting
So if you don't shake hands how do you greet others? When greeting someone of the opposite gender, a gentle head nod is acceptable. ...but what about people of the same gender? Women who are meeting women and men who are meeting men have very similar greeting methods of which typically include a soft "Asalaam Wa'Alikum" and a gentle shake with the right hands of each party and a kiss on each cheek - it is possible that the Saudi may go back in for a couple more cheeky kisses but just go with it.
3. Eye Contact
It is a common courtesy when living in to Saudi to "lower" your gaze. Lowering your gaze is a sign of respect for both men and women alike. When crossing paths with the opposite genders, lowering your gaze is a sign of respect for yourself and the other person. If one does not lower their gaze, then this can be seen as a potential "pass".
Eating? Yes, I'm sure you already know that you should not eat as if you are a cow at the trough but there are a few things to be mindful when dinning with Saudis. Eating with your right hand is rule no. 1, and then aside from that it is possible that you could end up eating at a table or in the more traditional sense, on the floor. If you are sitting on the floor, NEVER point the bottom (sole) of your feet towards the food. Aside from this it is considered a general courtesy to try each dish that is presented/
Why are you bringing up a wasta? Let me tell you, as the wife of a Saudi - I cannot express how many times I get asked consistently if I know a wasta or someone who can help. For one, I do not know any one. Next, if you're asking someone this question - be mindful that wastas come from family connections and the chances of someone revealing their wasta to you, is VERY slim.
Note: If you are the potential wife of a Saudi, don't ask other wives for their wasta. It is not your job to locate a wasta, it is your husbands job. Aside from all of this, there is absolutely nothing that you can do about your permission process, it lies with your husband.
If you're thinking of moving to Saudi Arabia; these are the 5 things I learned in the first 5 months of living in Jeddah.
Whether you are moving abroad permanently or temporarily, packing can be a major hurtle to overcome. The decisions on what to bring and what not to bring can be very daunting. Below you will find my concise opinions and what I did prior to my move to Saudi Arabia.
Step 1. Pre-Packing
Before you even start packing, it's time to de-clutter, donate, and sell! This is a time for you to go though your clothes and personal/household items, and try to minimize it to as little as possible. For me this was a major step, I gave away about 20 scarves and what our friends didn't need or want we took to Goodwill and other donation centers. I also sold my electronics and musical instruments via CraigsList (be smart and careful if you take this route). Clothes are something that you will ALWAYS purchase more of; my simple rule of thumb was "If it hasn't been worn in the last 2 months, I don't need it".
Step 2. What Can't You Get
I found it very important to pick up a few items before actually packing my bags, these pertained to items that I cannot find in Saudi, would need upon arrival, or would have difficulty finding. As a woman two of the things I bought were tampons and an abaya. Now, that may sound like "TMI" but I was given a heads-up that tampons are either difficult to find or you unable to locate a selection or variety. Even if you're traveling to neighboring countries like Bahrain, one may find difficulty locating the goods. Of course in Saudi for a woman, an abaya and hijab would be needed upon landing or arrival in the country.
Step 3. Divide and Conquer
Divide and Conquer is simply going from one type of item to the next. My suggestions is to start with sentimental items, these would be items that you wouldn't want to get rid of, no matter what the circumstances are. Personally this was some items from my grandparents and father, who had passed away including a watch, ring, and a fur coat - these were items that no matter what, they were making the journey. From this point I continued on with the basics, constantly trying to downsize what I had.
Step 4. Suitcases
When it comes to suitcases, there are a few important factors to look at. The first and foremost is to ensure that you have enough suitcases and room for all of your stuff. The second would be to familiarize yourself with your specific airline's rules and regulations regarding suitcases and carry-on's (i.e. baggage allowances and fees for extra bags or over-sized). I flew with Lufthansa Airlines which, I found to be very accommodating. It is also important to weigh your luggage, you can either do this with a regular scale or a luggage scale.
Step 5. Pack It Up
Everyone packs differently. A few of the things that I did when packing was to ensure that everything was freshly washed, ironed and folded. Ironing allows the clothes to sit in a fashion that does take up too much space. I additionally packed in a way that would allow me to cushion anything that was breakable. In my carry-on I packed my necessary items for changing, making it easily accessible since I would be arriving in Dammam prior to flying to Jeddah. I was additionally allowed a "personal bag" which I carried my laptop, some travel makeup, and my abaya for arrival into Saudi Arabia.
Traveling with Lufthansa was fantastic and shockingly even my travel from Dammam to Jeddah with Saudi Airlines was great. We arrived in Dammam, where we stayed the night prior to departure the next day; for our flight from Dammam to Jeddah we actually shipped all of our luggage and dog on our flight via Saudi Airlines cargo for about $1000 SAR (approx $250USD). With this system, I was able to get rid of and pack my 1200 sq.ft. apartment up in less than a week.
- American Hijabi
A previous post has been publish and can be found by clicking the link here.
- American Hijabi
(Updated) - The information provided in this post is based on goodwill; should you have any questions or concerns, please contact your local Saudi Arabian embassy.
Okay the marriage permission has been issued, what's next? Upon the issuance of the Saudi/non-Saudi marriage approval, one must then apply for a visa to enter the country. This is done if the non-Saudi spouse does not already reside within The Kingdom, and is applied for through the local embassy. Remember, there are requirements for this as well and it is quite possibly the most difficult part of the process (for me it was).
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior will forward the documents granting marriage permission to the required embassy; one can typically call to find out if it has been received. Upon receipt, the non-Saudi spouse must complete a series of medical exams, the embassy will require 3 original copies as well as all test results, along with an attached passport photograph for each. I attempted to show a image of the medical form, but it doesn't seem to be loading properly; the link to the embassy is also showing a potential for malware.
My doctor was Dr. Yolanda Huett-Vaugh (Argentine Family Health in Kansas City), who specializes in immigration exams. She stated that she had never seen a more comprehensive exam request! Some exams, including the Malaria Flim can take up to 4 weeks to obtain the results. While waiting we were able to do our Nikkah and obtain our official state marriage license. The embassy will require all all documents be "certified" through the EnjazIT site.
Sending Documents to the Saudi Arabian Embassy
• Passport (not a copy - with two adjacent clear visa pages, atleast 6months of validity)
• Visa Application
• (checked spouse, single entry - you will also need to submit an electronic application)
• Copy of non-Saudi's Birth Certificate
• Copy of Saudi ID
• Copy of Saudi Passport
• 3 Original Copies of Medical Exams w/Results and Photos
• Official Marriage Certificate Issued by the State
• Original Nikkah
• Original Shahada (if revert)
• All EnjazIT Certification (print outs)
• (All documents must be "certified" through the EnjazIT site i.e. Shahada, Nikkah, State License, Passport, and fees for the visa must be paid through this site as well)
We sent all documents via FedEx overnight and included a pre-paid FedEx return envelope. The embassy states that this can take up to 3 months but we had all documents and the visa back within 2 weeks. The visa is issued as a "Single Entry" and is valid for 90 Days.
- American Hijabi
(Updated) This is a general overview and description of what is needed for approval from the MOI; this information is provided based on goodwill. This post does not hold any official legality and I will recommend that if you believe you are in a compromising situation - please seek legal counsel. The Ministry of Interior holds the ability to alter these requirements at any given time.
In order for a Saudi man to marry a non-Saudi woman the couple is required to meet certain requirements and to obtain government approval. The process of my husband and I obtaining government approval began in mid-2015. It first took a few months to obtain all of the needed documents ( i.e. Shahada documents / I required a new passport as mine had become expired).
My husband and I met while he was studying on the scholarship through the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission; because we knew our intentions, we were able to plan accordingly. Upon the completion of his scholarship my husband applied for OPT (Optional Practical Training) which, allowed him to live and work in the US while still being on his F-1 Visa for a period of up to a year. Prior to his OPT ending, my husband traveled back to The Kingdom in October of 2015 to submit our request for approval.
Required Documentation For The Non-Saudi Spouse
• Copy of Passport (at least 6months left in validity)
• Copy of Birth Certificate
• Original Shahada Certificate (If you are not a born-Muslim, reverts can usually obtain from your local mosque)
• Divorce / Death Decrees (if applicable)
Requirements for Saudi Spouse (Specific to Men)
• All legal filing documents issued by the Ministry of Interior (MOI)
• Resident of Saudi Arabia (any governing province)
• Atleast 30 years of age
• Proof of Employment / Income
• Saudi National ID / Passport
• Must Present Reason for Marrying Abroad (engaged multiple times, divorced, spouse deceased, sick, etc)
• If the Saudi man is already married he must show medical proof that his first spouse has health issues pertaining to infertility, deformity, or contagious/sexually transmitted disease
• Divorce / Death Decrees (if applicable)
• The applicant must write a letter to the Amara to which they are applying, stating why he is seeking marriage outside of Saudis
Permission for a Saudi to marry a non-Saudi is applied through the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior, and this is typically applied for within The Kingdom either by the requesting party or their wali.
Please note: It is not required that the foreign spouse be a Muslim in order to obtain permission but from my understanding, it does make the process easier.
Once the documentation is obtained and submitted, it is really just a waiting game. The approval process can take a few weeks, to several months. Alhamdulillah, we were granted permission in just a few weeks.
I hope this is helpful to those who are looking for some insight, or sheds light on the requirements that have to be met when marrying a Saudi male as a non-Saudi female.
- American Hijabi